The most useful insights of 2021

We've been writing our Insights blog for over a decade now. Which posts amongst our extensive archive did you find most useful this year?

It’s a bit of a standing joke among the NEXT team that our Insights blog isn’t written for today’s readers: it’s written for people in three years’ time. That joke comes into stark reality every year when we look back on the most-read pieces on the site over the year.

We’ve just been through that exercise for 2021. The newest piece on the list is from this year: but it’s a sole representative of this year’s insights. The oldest piece is from 2012. And there’s a significant cluster from around 2017/8. It’s exactly that three to four years in the future reader, isn’t it? 

Here’s the list of the top 10 Insights on the site this year. Lots of people found them useful — we hope you will, too.

10. The Dopamine Loop is Dead. Long Live the Experience Loop!

Martin Recke, 2018

The dopamine loop, the addictive quality of social platforms, has gained a new name in recent years: doomscrolling. And people have grown wary of it — and weary of addictive tools. No wonder people are looking for the way forward, to create compelling experiences, rather than addicting ones. Martin’s piece from three years ago points the way ahead to a more human-centric future, which sets the scene nicely for the next article on our list…

9. From UX and CX to HX: The Human Experience

Martin Recke, 2017

This is the first of three different pieces this year that explore reinfecting the human factor into our digital systems. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise to use: we’ve become so much more dependent on digital systems over the last 21 months and for many of us, the poor human experience we have had to endure has been clear.

Martin’s prescient article posits that HX will be a competitive advantage: and time has proven him right. 

8. How to be disruptive and sustainable at the same time

Martin Recke, 2018

The tension between disruptive and sustainable innovation is hard to manage in any company. We’ve had several talks at NEXT about innovation cycles down the years, but in this piece, Martin explored how to manage both forms within a company at the same time. Not easy, for sure, but an essential part of building a company that can survive the never new normal we’re living through now. 

7. The Real Estate reset: how we’ll live and work in 2030

Adam Tinworth, 2020

Just a few months into the pandemic, back in 2020, Adam started speculating about the big “what if”: what if we never went back to full-time office life? 21 months on, we’re already starting to see many of the scenarios he postulated in this piece play out — and this most definitely is a theme we’ll continue exploring in 2022.

6. Google’s huge work/life balance experiment

Adam Tinworth, 2014

In the language of the music chart, it’s a surprise re-entry for this piece. That said, it seems obvious why. The last 21 months have blurred the distinction between our home and work lives beyond all recognition, and the clear delineations of place and commute have evaporated into COVID-driven lockdowns. With hybrid working clearly here to stay, we’re going to need new strategies for managing our work/life balance. 

5. What is digital service design

Adam Tinworth, 2012

The oldest piece on the list, this was designed to kick off the fondly remembered NEXT Service Design conferences. Interesting that a little under a decade later, people are still trying to get their heads around the concept.

Perhaps this is something we should revisit and update in 2022?

4. With great power comes great responsibility

Martin Recke, 2020

With Spider-Man: No Way Home defying Omicron to swing high in the cinema box-office, this piece from last year explores the power of the individual in a hyper-connected world. Now, we’ve written plenty about the need for corporate accountability and legal intervention. But Martin makes a good case for the responsibility of the individual netizen — one of whom linked this piece from Wikipedia, leading to steady traffic…

3. The dual strategy of horizontal and vertical integration

Martin Recke, 2021

The highest traffic piece from this year, saw Martin break down how a combination of vertical and horizontal integration allows businesses to reshape markets. Amazon is, of course, the prime example, but tools like Shopify are making this about more than the big players. 

2. What is Digital Humanism?

Martin Recke, 2017

A piece from four years ago that feels more apposite than ever. Back in 2015, Gartner tried to kick off the idea of digital humanism (and they tried again earlier in the year), but Martin gave it new life with a new definition:

the shift away from computer-literate people to people-literate technology

The pandemic has forced us all to be more computer-literate — but has also emphasised how much more human-friendly our tech could yet become. 

1. Ambient Computing could be our next digital fix.

Adam Tinworth, 2018

The winner of the year’s Insights traffic achieved that goal almost on a technicality. While most of our Insights do well due to steady search traffic, a single link to this auricle generated the vast majority of the traffic, over a good number of months. That said, today’s world sees smart earphones a fixture in most people’s lives, and all the big tech companies working on the sorts of AR/VR tools that will enable metaverse experiences. The slow supplanting of the phone with a cloud of ambient smart devices around our bodies seems ever more lively as we head into 2022…